Since my teens, I’ve dealt with serious anxiety and panic attacks. It all started in high school over my school work. Doing well academically was very important to me so I studied hard and gave it everything I had, but I was very attached to the outcome. As a result, I put way too much pressure on myself to get good grades. Eventually, my anxiety became so debilitating that my doctor put me on various medications to help me cope. I was even taking hardcore prescription sleeping pills (which, in hindsight, is not okay for a 16 year old). But it seemed like the only solution — I didn’t know how else to survive.
Of course, the medication wasn’t addressing the real issues. It was just sweeping everything under the carpet — a habit I excelled at in all areas of my life. It wasn’t until many years later, when I began to do the inner work, that I really started to see dramatic shifts in my well-being. That’s when things actually changed and transformed on a soul-deep level, and these days, I can proudly say that my debilitating anxiety is a thing of the past.
Over the years I have had many of my clients and friends come to me with some degree of anxiety. Knowing that pain all too well, it breaks my heart to see them suffering. But I love being able to guide them through the exact same steps that I used to heal and support myself, and it’s always so amazing to see the incredible transformations they experience.
So if you’re looking to kick your anxiety to the curb, these are the top 6 things that helped me — and hundreds of my clients — to recover and heal:
1. Be Present
The simple technique of reminding yourself to be present is very powerful and can immediately dissolve worry and anxiety. Easier said than done though, right?! To do this, bring all of your attention into your feet — this will help bring your awareness out of your head and into your body, anchoring you and keeping you grounded. Now feel the sensations in your feet. Feel the blood pumping through your veins. Feel your bones and toes. Whenever your inner critic wants to pull you out of the moment, simply let the thought go and bring your attention back to your feet.
You can do this practice as many times throughout the day as you need to. Even better, you can do it no matter where you find yourself — on the loo, at your desk or even on the bus. If you find yourself back in the past or doing some serious future-tripping, just simply bring your attention back to your feet.
2. Breathe Deeply and Fully
When you are anxious, you tend to do short and shallow breathing, which raises your heart rate and contributes to that panicky feeling. When you feel your anxiety rising, put both your hands on your belly. Place your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes, relax your shoulders and breathe deeply and fully into your belly. Feel your hands rise and fall with your breath. Take 10 deep, long and slow breaths, and once you’re feeling calm and centred again you can slowly open your eyes. Do this exercise whenever you feel that familiar worried feeling start to wash over you — the quicker you can do it the better, but it’s never too late.
You can also try this powerful mindfulness breathing technique.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe in for 5 counts.
- Hold your breath for 2 counts.
- Breathe out for 5 counts.
- Repeat at least 5 times.
It has been scientifically proven that meditation relieves anxiety and calms the nervous systems. With all the chatter and stimulation around us these days, we are more on edge and reactive than ever before. This is why meditation is so imperative — and so potent. I personally have found daily meditation by far the most powerful way to decrease my overall anxiety and stress in my everyday life. It wasn’t until I started meditating twice a day that my anxiety dissipated and my life dramatically changed.
There are many different forms of meditation, such as guided meditations, using a mantra, or focusing on your breath. Try them all and see what resonates with you. Start with 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night, and then increase your time when it feels right. This will make a dramatic difference to how you feel, your health and how you show up in the world. The goal is to move through your day with ease and grace, and meditation will facilitate that.
4. Eat Well
It might sound strange to link your anxiety to what you eat, but the foods you consume have a big impact on your mental health. Studies have shown a correlation between unhealthy eating and high anxiety and stress. If you are anxious, stay away from things like sugar, gluten, dairy, soft drink, candy, coffee and processed junk foods. Instead, add in more grounding and wholesome foods like root vegetables, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds and beans and legumes. These foods are going to help nourish your body on a cellular cell.
5. Get Support
The sooner you get over your belief that you’re a superhero and can do everything on your own, the better. We all need support from time to time and that’s ok. We can not do this thing we call ‘life’ alone. Being a mom, running a business, being a good wife, cleaning the house, cooking, catching up with your friends, washing the clothes, doing errands and life admin are all a full time job in themselves.
So stand in your power, ask for support when you need it, and don’t be afraid to share how you’re feeling. Commit to having an open and authentic conversation with a friend, your partner, a holistic therapist… whoever resonates with you.
Sometimes, you’ll find that even just the simple act of voicing your concerns out loud to another person is enough to reduce your anxiety — that worry that felt as big as the Titanic suddenly becomes virtually non-existent.
6. Move Your Body
Physical activity releases endorphins (the happy hormones) which help increase happiness and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone). As soon as you start to feel the anxiety come on, go for a walk in nature, do some yin yoga outside or take a dance class … any activity where you are moving your body will help!
Exercise has an immediate effect on your anxiety levels. But even better, regular exercise will decrease the amount of anxiety you feel overall, so make sure you keep at it. Try to move your body every day for an hour if you can.
So there you have it — my top 6 tips to help you ditch the angst and reclaim your inner peace. Remember, anxiety does not need to rule your life. Overcoming it requires commitment, but with these tools you’ll be well on your way to taming the beast and taking back control of your life.
Now I want to hear from you. Do you have any ways to deal with anxiety? Please share with us in the comments below. Your insight might be the one thing that completely changes someone’s life. And if you have a friend or family member who deals with anxiety, please forward this onto them so we can support them on their journey.
Thank you so much for sharing your tips and tools with us.